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Clifford Chance Sculpture Prize Winner 2019, Susana Uvidia

Written by Eleanor Harvey
Published date 17 November 2019

Susana Del Rocio Uvidia Humanante is the winner of the 2019 Clifford Chance Sculpture Prize. A graduate from the BA and MA Fine Arts courses at Central Saint Martins, Susana’s work is centred on her own struggles with her identity, as an Ecuadorean artist living in Europe.

This annual prize was established by law firm Clifford Chance and is now in its fifteenth year, gives MA students from across University of the Arts London (UAL) the opportunity to create a work that will be displayed in the lobby of Clifford Chance’s reception area.

We caught up with Susana to discuss what the application process was like, and what it was like to work on the commission.

Photo of Susana standing to the left of her sculpture, against a yellow background
Photo courtesy of Susana Uvidia Caption

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am an Ecuadorian artist living and working in London. I studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins at BA and MA levels, focusing on visual art. My practice primarily explores representations of space and time. I work within the genres of abstract portraiture. A deep interest in subjective experiences is explored through painting mediums. The redefinition of material and its limitations are key aspects of works produced, creating narratives that emerge from this process.

As an artist, what is your practice?

I am interested in reconfiguring the everyday into something strange and atmospheric, to give voice to the inexplicable part of social experiences. It seems to me that words and figurative cannot easily represent this part of the experience. That feeling of little familiarity is what leaves you in an unknown space. My practice is in that space of sliding meaning where you are not sure what the essence is beyond any actual representation, positioning itself on the 'non-figurative' side of the abstraction continuum.

Similar to an ethnographer or journalist, I collect information through various means, such as conversations, direct observation and photography. By transforming this data in intriguing ways, the observations are reconfigured into something abstract but tangible and two and three-dimensional, inspired by the symbolism of the indigenous culture of my country and influenced by the abstraction of social relations in industrial societies. I collect the medium from the same space of experience and then deconstruct and rebuild to become a key aspect of this new representation.

Photo of sculpture installation in an office
Photo courtesy of Susana Uvidia Caption

Could you tell us a bit about your application for the Clifford Chance Sculpture Prize?

My application was based on the first impression of this intimidating place, I was overawed. That made me travel to an imaginary world of interaction that clients and employees face when they embark on a relationship with Clifford Chance. I created a metaphor to reflect the social experience that is presented, transformed and consumed by the inhabitants of the building.

The work is called Cli-Cha where the medium, shape and colour represent a transition from a manageable situation through confrontation and then back to resolution, signified by the rod being smooth then knotted then smooth again. Cli-Cha provokes a conversation with the constant flow of visitors highlighting locality and connectivity. The position exposes them to a simple, yet at the same time, deep interaction.

How was the process of applying for the prize?

I sent the application, as in other years, before Christmas and received the result in March. So I had some months to materialize my proposal. I had a specific date for the installation and two weeks of control in case of problems to solve before the award ceremony. The whole process was unforgettable. The Clifford Chance team is a group of very open and friendly people who put your ideas first and the communication from beginning to end was paramount in this process.

Photo of a sculpture against a yellow backdrop
Photo courtesy of Susana Uvidia Caption

What were the challenges of the commission?

The real challenge of this commission was to interact and respond with the intimidating building of Clifford Chance. Creating a piece of work for a specific place, and deciding the materials I would need is something I'd never done before. Health and safety insisted on plinths for the work which added further to production demands. The pressure to manage expectations and commit to a goal and deadline challenged me, as well as learning about my own limitations and boundaries.

Do you have any advice for anyone applying for the prize in the future?

My best advice for people is to make a statement that has an impact on the jury. To produce a meaningful work that draws on your first impressions and suits your style of art. You have a few seconds to impress, then make a simple, clear and short application.

Photo of a sculpture against a yellow backdrop
Photo courtesy of Susana Uvidia Caption

Has the prize enabled you to take your work in a new direction or explore something a bit further?

This prize has led me to discover new ground, as well as the belief for the need to go further. And, most importantly, it has given me greater confidence, experience, and understanding to continue to explore and intimidate myself. I want to tell stories, different stories, where people live different lives.

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?

At the moment, I am working on a solo exhibition for the Ecuadorean Embassy, where I want to go beyond my usual painting and sculpture techniques by planning to do an installation. My plan for the future is to make site-specific artworks for Riobamba, my home city.

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